Teen archer follows father’s aim
CHRISTIANSBURG — Since the March 23 opening of the Hollywood hit, “The Hunger Games,” people across the country have packed movie theaters in order to catch a glimpse of the bow-wielding female star of the film, Katniss Everdeen.
The residents of Christiansburg, however, need look no further than a backyard to find a similar teenage heroine.
More specifically, the backyard of Sarah Martin, where the 15-year-old archer can often be found preparing for top-level shooting competitions by honing her ability to launch arrows toward life-sized animal targets at more than 180 miles per hour.
It’s a passion she shares not only with the fictional character, but also with the man whom she shares the backyard — her father, Dewayne Martin.
For more than three years, the Martins have competed together on the national level of amateur three-dimensional archery contests around the country, where Sarah Martin attacks the foam animal-shaped targets with her one-of-a-kind Mathews Monster compound bow. Her father does the same with his more traditional recurve bow.
Already this year, the father-daughter duo has knotted a pair of top-five finishes in their respective divisions at the Archery Shooters Association’s Florida Pro Am, as well as earning first-place honors at the International Bowhunters Organization’s Indoor World Championship.
The latter was a father-daughter feat IBO national board member Jimmy Blackmon said was the first he was aware of, despite the recent surge of female youth interest in the sport.
Blackmon gave recent movies depicting female archers as heroes such as “Brave,” and “The Hunger Games,” much of the credit for the rising interest.
“Hollywood is doing a wonder for us right now,” Blackmon said.
While the recent trend might be drawing others to the sport, make no mistake, Dewayne and Sarah Martin were far ahead of the curve on this one.
“We was archery before archery was cool,” Dewayne Martin said.
Martin, who was first introduced to the 3D target version of the sport in 1986, said he purchased his daughter her first bow at the age of 5 and by age 10, the urge to seriously compete had taken over.
The two began spending countless hours together, honing their skills at hitting the golfball-sized targets and building Sarah’s draw strength to its current weight of 51 pounds, far above the average female resistance, in order to compensate for her shorter draw length.
“Most of the women I shoot with in ASA, we would talk and they were shooting like 46, 45, 37, [pounds]. And they were like 28- to 38-year-old women,” Sarah Martin said.
Putting hours of practice time in is a must according to Dewayne Martin, who said after just a week and a half of not shooting, he basically has to start all over with his own training.
He said Sarah’s skills have a bit more staying power, largely due to the mechanical nature of her compound, but that doesn’t stop the teen from practicing with every bit of the little free time she has between her school work and part-time job.
“I want to practice everyday,” she said, adding that math homework has often been known to refuse that desire.
Despite their hectic schedules, the pair has managed to spend enough time practicing to yield mutual success when competition time comes around.
Both father and daughter admit this time together comes with a bit of a drawback.
“We shoot so much together in the backyard…when we go to a major competition, even if we can shoot together, we won’t,” Dewayne Martin said.
“Because we get on each others nerves,” Sarah Martin added.
Shooting on her own highlights the aspect Sarah Martin said she most enjoys about the sport.
“I like that it all depends on you,” she said.
“When you’re shooting in competitions, it’s really just a matter of beating yourself.”
While Dewayne Martin might not be right beside his daughter during competitions, there is no doubt he’s pulling for her victory, even more than for his own.
“I’d rather see her win,” Dewayne Martin said.
“I know how hard she works and for her to put it all together at this age, it means a lot.”
The duo will have plenty more opportunities to both put it all together, as they are planning to travel to 11 more major events this year, the next being April 27-29 when they travel to Augusta, Ga., for the Realtree Georgia Pro Am.
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